The restaurant business runs in Mark Micheletti’s blood. His family owned two now defunct East Bay institutions, The Castle in Popasquash and Micheletti’s in Warren, and now he co-owns Pomodoro Pizzeria with his wife, Tina. Early on in their marriage, Tina “fell in love” with the idea of owning a restaurant that would combine the Italian comfort foods that they both grew up eating. In August of 2013, Pomodoro Pizzeria was born. For Tina, the restaurant was the perfect marriage of tradition, family, and a love of all things tomato sauce. We spoke with her about what it’s like to manage one of the East Bay’s favorites.
What do you think Pomodoro means for the people in East Bay?
I think it’s a new concept for them. Pomodoro is a neighborhood restaurant, and that’s what I hear people talk about the most. We love that we can be small and quaint and people can just walk in from their homes. They enjoy that it’s BYOB, too. You serve a combination of American and Italian cuisines, from buffalo chicken calzones to homemade gnocchi.
What kinds of dishes have customers responded to the most?
We really get a lot of great feedback from our customers, and that’s really what’s most important here. We try other specials, but they love the Italian cooking. That’s what they come for; they love the pasta, the pizza. So, we try to keep it that way for them. They definitely love eggplant. Eggplant is a big dish. It’s difficult to prepare at home; it’s time-consuming. Everybody has their particular favorites and I’ll get people who say, “Well, I can’t try anything else because I love this dish so much,” be it eggplant or Bolognese.
When did you first have the idea for Pomodoro?
It stems from years ago with my husband. We have always wanted to get back into the restaurant business. Before, our children were too young. We didn’t want to take away from them. But we made a promise that when they were older that we would do it as a family, and we did. We just took a walk one day and I found a building for rent. A bell rang like, “That’s the one, let’s do it.” Within 24 hours we had a business.
Growing up in Rhode Island as an Italian-American, what does authentic Italian cooking mean to you?
Both of our grandparents were from Italy. It’s just the food that we grew up with; it’s our comfort food. To us, that’s what makes it authentic. A lot of our dishes are Italian-American. It’s the food that we would have on a Sunday afternoon at our grandparents’ house. I used to make tomato sauce with my grandmother. We would grow the tomatoes and take them upstairs, grind them, boil them. I have just so many memories. All of our dishes are married from both of our families. Some of them are from his side, some of them are from mine, and the rest are ones that we’ve created from a love of both sides.
The restaurant business can be very challenging. Have there been any surprises or difficulties that you’ve had to face since you first opened your doors?
No, actually, it’s been great. With the help of my daughter, Erin, and my son, Marcus, they fill in on anything we need. We’ve been very lucky, it’s a family-run business and we have great staff. We work in harmony, which is great. It’s tough to run a business without family or a good support system. That’s the key to any good business. Support, having an anchor there.